Friday, September 11, 2009

Steve Cooper: Self-Actualization in the Internet

When I talked with Steve Cooper, founder of TechUofA and former Army education trainer, I kept thinking of The Matrix, the movie starring Keanu Reaves. That movie is all about the grid of data that comprises what we think of reality. The main character figures out its a program and he uses his mind to manipulate the program to bring about change, so to speak.

Well, Cooper is not really linked up to a virtual machine and trying to manipulate reality with his mind, but he is trying to change education by using Facebook and a few other free applications and internet-based companies to offer a free and open system.

The video is coming soon, so watch for that.

Basically, Cooper believes that his company will eventually go a few steps beyond what eCollege and Blackboard currently offer.

"Operators want to be able to modify," says Cooper. And they cannot do that with the current providers, he says. By creating an open, transparent, end-user driven education system that exists inside Facebook and runs on open API source code, Cooper thinks that he can offer educators, businesses and students an open system that enables them to drive the innovation that makes education excellent.

The result of his constant tinkering on this kind of project is called Tech University of America. He's already mentioned that several key education institutions have approached him for partnership and the company aims to have its accreditation in Arizona in 2011.

Courses will be deliverable on the Facebook platform, which will allow students to rate and grade professors and teachers on their performance. They will also be able to pick and choose the curriculum they want to follow.

The university will also deliver free online courses through Blogtalkradio, a type of podcast platform that anyone can use.

One of the interesting outcomes of this type of setup is that schools that may be suffering from budget cutbacks or looking for ways to save money and deliver value, would be able to partner with Cooper's company and embark on a revenue-sharing model by extracting revenue streams from the highly targeted ads that support the system.

There's much more to this. And the story of its founder is intriguing. Once an Army trainer, Cooper became unsettled by the direction of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, felt a calling to come home to his relatives to take care of them, and now insists on trying to bring together and build the largest interactive education system that could rival or exceed what current providers of online interactive software companies now provide.

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